Read Chapter 14 “How the Kids Got Away?”
Maggie was glad to be out of the old, full of long-forgotten shadows, base. The naked skeletons of the trees seemed to be more appealing to her than the rusty base that has seen much better times. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, enjoying a gentle breeze on her cheeks. Patrick wasn’t sure if what he saw in the base was real, or possibly just some trick his imagination played on his tired mind. So much has happened in the past few hours that anything and everything was possible.
Patrick glanced at Maggie and kissed her forehead, while gently guiding her into his arms. Patrick’s unexpected emotional display caught Maggie off guard, but she didn’t object. He was surprised by his spontaneity as much as Maggie was. Everyone needs human connection, especially when your past is trying to catch up with your present. Maggie didn’t mind showing emotions. However, the clock was ticking, and she had no idea how long it’d take them to travel to London. Besides, finding missing people in a city torn to pieces, such as London is not an easy task.
– “We must go” – said Maggie while slowly taking a step away from Patrick.
– “Yes, yes, of course.” – he let her go and grabbed his drone a second later. The drone’s power was still off, which meant that the Above hasn’t gained control of whatever was happening on the ground.
– “Are you all right?” – asked Maggie hoping that she didn’t hurt his feelings.
– “Yes, I just thought, for a second… but …” – Patrick began to wonder what if the Corporate Government was playing tricks on him. What if the reality he was experiencing was just a simulation and he walked right into a trap. His distrust of what was in front of him was influenced by years of propaganda and brainwashing the Corporate Government put him through, which intensified in the past couple of years. He often couldn’t distinguish between what was real and what was just created by the Corporate Government to confuse and catch unsuspecting people off guard. He knew that he had decided to follow Maggie regardless of whether his experience was real or not. He wanted to believe in Maggie, her story and her need for his help. He’s been lonely for years and often silently wondered if he chose the right side of the revolution, sacrificing so much and getting so little in return.
– “We need to keep going, Patrick.” – Maggie’s vague voice brought him back to reality.
– “Yes, of course.” – Patrick brushed his doubts aside, just the way he has been doing all his life. He took out his trusted old-fashioned compass from his pocket. -“We shouldn’t use your fancy equipment now. We don’t know if the Corporate Government is tracking your devices or not.” Maggie nodded in agreement.
Patrick turned around and started marching North; Maggie followed him, hoping that they were going to catch up with the kids soon enough.
Maggie walked in silence, looking around at the remains of the once-thriving forest filled with unique animals and soothing plants. But only dry patches of hallow trunks were left behind, where the trees used to grow. The trees starved to death, just like most of the animals. For years Maggie tried to understand why the greed of the Corporate Government deceived so many people. And why the Corporate Government didn’t want to see beyond their own short-sighted personal interests. She never came to any conclusions or profound understanding of human motives.
Suddenly Patrick stopped and pulled her down to the ground. They were in the open with not much cover around. The only way they could avoid being seen was to lay still amongst ankle tall grass. Patrick put his finger across his lips, listening hard to the whistling that was coming straight at them. Maggie froze imagining the most horrible scenarios that could possibly come to be; in none of those scenarios, she got reunited with her kids. The sheer thought of that made her want to act and act fast. Foreseeing what Maggie might do, Patrick put his hand on her back, making sure she wasn’t trying to stand up. He didn’t know who or what was approaching (could have been anyone from smugglers, to the Corporate troops, to rebels); he didn’t even realise that anyone still knew about this old forest road.
When Maggie tried to look up, she could see the grass swiftly moving under the boots of the strangers. Finally, two pairs of large size boots stopped right in front of them. Suddenly someone poked Maggie’s body with a stick, making her jump right up facing the two strangers, who to her greatest surprise looked nothing like she had feared.
– “Who are you and what do you want?” – fired Maggie, while Patrick slowly started to reappear from the ground up.
The strangers were both only young children, carrying nothing with them but the walking sticks.
– “Are you from Ecotopia?” – asked the boy, who seemed slightly older than the other boy.
– “Yes, I’m.” – replied Maggie, before Patrick had any chance to warn her that admitting to any connection with Ecotopia was punished by a lifetime in a work camp.
– “How can we get there?” – the boy asked again.
– “Are you trying to defect?” – Patrick questioned the boys sternly in his commanding voice.
– “Our parents are dead. We have nothing left here. We want to try to make it to the other side before we perish too. How can we get there?” – the boy looked at Maggie.
– “I flew here before my plane crashed.” Maggie didn’t see a reason why she should to lie to the boys.
– “There is a bridge you could cross.” Patrick blurted out without thinking much of what he was saying.
– “Is that the only way?” – asked the boy, who didn’t seem to be at all surprised by what Patrick said.
– “If you don’t have an aeroplane, it is I’m afraid,” – confirmed Patrick.
– “Do you have anything to eat?” – asked the other boy, who looked much thinner than his brother. “We haven’t eaten for a long time.”
– “You what?” – shouted Maggie in horror, before opening her backpack and giving the boys couple of the power bars. -“Those bars will keep you going until you cross the bridge and, when you get to the other side, the Ecotopians will take care of you.”
– “If we get to the other side…” – echoed the older boy.
– “You will if you keep heading south. This path isn’t really used any longer by any of the Corporate troops so it should be safe enough. But remember not to cross the bridge at night time. At night the smugglers occupy the crossing, and sometimes the Corporate Government sends troops down there to keep them at bay.” – said Patrick: “and no whistling! You don’t want to attract the attention of the unwanted eyes.” – he added.
They were just about to part ways when Maggie asked.
– “Did you cross paths with a boy and a girl? They aren’t much older than you are.”
– “No, we didn’t see a boy and a girl, but we saw a group of rebel kids heading to London. We hid from them because… we didn’t know, which side they were on.” – said the older boy.
– “I saw a boy and a girl with the rebel kids. They had very strange clothes on, under their rags just like you.” – added the younger brother.
– “Oh! Thank you. Thank you so much.” – Maggie said with as much gratitude as her tired body could master. “You two be safe, and I’ll see you in Ecotopia.”
The boys tried to smile, but it came out more like a sour grin than a childlike smile. The moment they started working again, they dug into their bars. Maggie watched them briefly before she joined Patrick, who was already heading in the opposite direction.
– “Did you hear that boy?” – she asked.
– “You cannot be sure it was them.” – Patrick replied with his usual scepticism.
– “I know it was them. A mother knows.”
Patrick didn’t say anything else; there was no point disagreeing with Maggie.
– “It was nice of you to give all this information to those kids. Do you think they will make it?” – carried on, Maggie.
– “I really hope so. I really do.” – replayed Patrick.
After a few hours of uneventful walking amongst the graveyard of once strong and thriving countryside, Maggie began feeling anxious once again. The progress they’ve made so far wasn’t fast enough for her, and her hope of catching up with the rebels was slowly fading.
– “How far are we from London?” – she finally asked.
– “I don’t know how far but we need some help getting there. Otherwise, we may not make it on time.” – Patrick replied honestly.
– “What kind of help were you thinking about?” – Maggie wanted to know.
– “I could radio for help.” – suggested Patrick.
– “No!!!” – shouted Maggie: – “It will ruin our chances of catching up with the rebels. Besides, you are a defector now.”
– “We might … ” – Patrick didn’t finish his sentence.
– “Look!!!” – Maggie interrupted him, pointing at something shiny some distance away. “What do you think that is?”
– “Don’t know. Let’s investigate.”